How to pass any Examination: Understanding the Examination Action Words commonly used in Questions 2

Examination Action Words
Image from Pixabay (edited)

In Part One of this article, we explained how examination action words can help you do well in any examination if you understand what they mean. They go a long way to determine what should be your answer. This is the second and the concluding part. Before you proceed, please go and read Part One first before coming back to read this part for a better understanding. Thanks.

More of the examination action words include:


Here, the student is expected to point out a topic’s mistakes or weaknesses as well as its favourable aspects. You are to analyze and not to explain the situation with a view to giving a balanced answer. There may be no correct side or stand to take while criticizing but be careful as controversial issues may be raised.

Define/What is

In answering a question with this action word, you are to give a generally acceptable meaning of a word or phrase. This is best done in a concise manner. The meaning can either be a dictionary definition or
a technical one depending on the specific academic discipline. Remember to give a generally accepted definition if the concept in question, like democracy, has various definitions by different authors.
Except you do not have options, always leave such questions as they usually attract poor and low marks.
Example Question
Define the term ‘Education Management’.


To demonstrate is to prove by logical reasoning that something is what it is said or appears to be. It can also mean to prove, provide evidence, illustrate or describe by use of experiments, examples, etc. This question often require a comprehensive understanding of a process, operational pattern, production procedure, lines of operation etc.
Example Question
Using the marker pen, demonstrate on the board with diagrams how energy from the sun gets into the human system.


To describe means to give an account (in words) of a phenomenon which may be an entity, an event, a feature, a pattern, a distribution, a process etc. In doing this, give as much information as possible that will be enough to inform the examiner that you actually know what you are describing. I mean your description should sufficiently paint a clear mental image of what was being described.


Coming across determine as an action word in a question demands that you come to a decision or conclusion (by investigation) on the issue raised in the question.
Example Question
In the image below, determine that the hired assassin is the woman in purple dress.


Here, you are to critically analyze the given subject matter by identifying and exploring various points of view and their respective positive/negative aspects concerning the given matter. Or you are to evaluate the positive and negative merits of a matter to provide an overall judgment on its validity, strength or worth. It also involves setting out both sides of an argument (for and against), and come to a conclusion related to the content and emphasis of the discussion. There should be some evidence of balance, though not necessarily of equal weighting.
Example Question
Discuss the effects of President Trump’s suspension of support to WHO on the after COVID-19 global health intervention.


Here, you need to carefully examine and consider several options, ideas or arguments and come to a conclusion about their importance, success and worth. The aim is mainly for you to determine the value of something by identifying criteria for its measurement. You must go on to appraise the degree to which the matter satisfies the stated criteria. You need to provide reasons to justify your appraisal supporting same with evidence and illustrations. This is similar to discuss, but with more emphasis on a
judgment in the conclusion.
Example Question
Evaluate the sustained use fertilizer in cropping on a piece of land.


Here, the student is expected to supply reasons for the validity of a view or idea why some action should be undertaken. In doing this, you need to discuss and discount alternative views or actions clearly stating the strengths and weaknesses of the views involved. Remember that you are to prove that the chosen outcome have positives that outweigh the negatives. However, you may need to be very careful as it may involve a negative statement.
Example Question
Justify this choice of euthanasia over patience till natural death occurs.


You are to clearly state the causes of a phenomenon and/or the factors which influence its form/nature in great detail. This usually requires a deep understanding of issue at hand. Since this requires a higher-level skill than description, it often has greater mark allotment. Always use the mark allocation of such questions as a guide for how much information to write in your answer.


To illustrate means to explain clearly by giving concrete examples and using comparisons where necessary. Such examples as figures, sketches, diagrams and any other piece of useful and related information should constitute a greater content of the answer. Sometimes, illustrate, as an action word, may be added on to another in a question.


It can be used interchangeably with state, mention or enumerate. It demands you to only provide an itemized series of the required parts, number of ideas, aspects, events things, qualities, reasons, etc. as they apply to the issue in the question. While answering such questions, you do not need to discuss anything. Just make a list.


This means to provide a brief account and description of relevant information. You just give the main points without wasting your time providing unnecessary details as doing so earns you no additional marks.


Either of these action words needs you to provide adequate evidence for or against and demonstrate logical argument and reasoning on something. You will more often than not see them in questions concerning abstract or scientific subjects.


To recommend is to advise on the appropriate actions to pursue in terms the examiner or any such recipient of your answer will understand.


State demands you to briefly give the relevant points on the object, issue or condition concerned. You do not need to make a lengthy discussion. You are safe to ignore minor details as they are not necessary when answering questions of this nature.


The meaning of summarize is to give a brief, condensed account of something or an event. Remember to avoid unnecessary details and to conclude your explanation.


This means to give a brief of the logical or chronological stages of the development of a theory, process, a person’s life and so on. This is often used in historical questions.

If you have any other examination action words that is not on the list in both parts, kindly mention them to us using the comment box. We will update the article to accommodate such.

With a good mastery of the examination action words above and knowing exactly what you are expected to write as your answer, there is no examination you cannot pass. Your performance in subsequent examinations is now dependent on you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *